Men are werewolves in bed

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Daily Links and Notes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Men are werewolves in bed

  1. Julian says:

    Taylor takes early modern philosopher, Rene Descartes as a paradigm case and observes the development of a “super buffered self.” Not only are there no spirits or demons encroaching on our internal selves; the passions also undergo a shift. The passions in the ancient conception, while they are seen as leading us into illusion and unreason, still retain some orientation towards the good. In Plato for example, sexual desire is understood as being a feeble desire for Beauty. For Descartes, the passions are only distractions that lead reason astray, they point to nothing higher, or beyond, and have no higher meaning. The passions of the buffered self are only illusions that grip us which must be controlled and contained. The self in Descartes’ conception is also fully self contained and constituted in itself, and not its relationship to others. The modern, buffered self then, is utterly self enclosed, it is not under assault by evil spirits, not pulled by passions to something beyond, but is utterly autonomous and independent of others.

    A related trend is the remarkable advance in manners. While medieval etiquette books cautioned people against blowing their nose on the tablecloth, later etiquette tells people not to blow their nose at the table at all. Taylor gives a fascinating account of how these taboos developed. In medieval times, exposing yourself in public, or “mixing fluids” with others, if done in the presence of superiors was a case of “misplaced intimacy”, you are being too intimate with someone who is above you. Eventually, as equality grows, these taboos become generalized to apply not just to your superiors, but also to everyone else. It is never appropriate to defecate in public. Taylor sees this as a shift from “promiscuous intimacy” to a more guarded and “selective intimacy”:

    “This… reflects…the withdrawal from promiscuous intimacy which is part of the modern disciplined stance. Henceforth, this kind of closeness is reserved for a small circle of people, generally the immediate family; and even there the tabus are partly effective. You keep the multifarious functions of your body, its fluids and secretions, very much to yourself, you keep a respectful distance, and you relate to others through voice and visage, via sight and sound, reserving touch for intimates, or for certain ritually permitted moments like shaking hands.”
    This more distant relationship to others is accompanied by a more distant approach to yourself. Our taboos cause us to distance ourselves from many of our own strong emotions, such as violent rage, or our strange attractions/fascinations and our bodily functions. Together we play the social game with others, reinforcing the taboos with feelings of disgust at those who transgress the rules. Taylor puts it well: “Civilization is in a sense, a matter of feeling shame in the appropriate places.” The modern self is very tightly delineated between the inner and outer. Our outer self is the self we project to the world, the proscribed “professional” or “civil” ways we are able to relate to others, and the general social game we participate in. The inner self is those secretive inner attractions, emotions, or fascinations that we keep to ourselves and feel ashamed about. Taylor’s point about the medieval self, is that these boundaries between public and private were much more porous and much less governed or regulated by taboos. Its interesting to notice how repulsive we find that.

  2. Julian says:

    From my summery of Chapter 2 of A Secular Age

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s